Leeds United: Improved Whites fail to make their point

Matt Smith is treated for a black eye.
Matt Smith is treated for a black eye.
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Brian McDermott welcomed an improved performance from Leeds United but said their spirited display at Burnley was no substitute for points after a third successive defeat.

McDermott refused to dwell on a competitive response to shocking results against Bolton Wanderers and Reading, saying he was “desperately disappointed” to leave Turf Moor with nothing on Saturday.

Burnley recovered from Ross McCormack’s 25th goal of the season to maintain their unbeaten home record and take another step towards automatic promotion with a second-half winner from winger Scott Arfield.

Arfield’s 67th-minute strike earned Burnley a 2-1 win and inflicted a 15th league loss on Leeds, rounding off a stressful week for McDermott.

The 52-year-old’s position as United manager came into question in the aftermath of heavy defeats to Bolton and Reading which ruled Leeds’ out of the running for the play-offs.

The Elland Road club are now 13 points off the pace of the top six after Saturday’s game in Lancashire.

McDermott talked up the reaction of his players to a spell of poor form, saying: “To call it an improvement is an understatement but we’re desperately disappointed not to have won the game, let alone draw it. What I’m trying to get at Leeds United – and I haven’t got there yet – is a Burnley team or a Leicester team: a team who are going to go up from this league and who’ll play like you have to play to go up from this league.

“We played like that in the first half in particular but unfortunately we’ve given a couple of goals away which have made the difference again. It’s incredibly disappointing.

“Having said that, we were much, much better than we’ve been in the last two games. We got in behind them and put them under much more pressure. We got to more second balls.

“But from my point of view we didn’t get a result and that’s obviously the be-all and end-all. We have to be getting a result from that game.”

Leeds are 14th in the Championship with 11 games to go, 29 points behind Burnley who continue to hold second place beneath champions-in-waiting Leicester City.

McCormack’s opener came after the Scot struck a post with a ninth-minute chip, and Burnley struggled through the first half until a low cross from Kieran Trippier drew Jason Pearce into conceding an own goal six minutes before the interval.

Arfield then settled a tight match with a 12-yard finish, burying the rebound after his first shot was blocked by Tom Lees, and United did not come closer than a late header from Matt Smith which deflected narrowly over Burnley’s crossbar.

Smith was handed his first start for more than two months on Saturday, returning to the side after scoring consolation goals against Bolton and Reading.

“He was terrific, really effective, and he caused a lot of problems,” McDermott said.

“What we did really well was put the ball into the box and put them under pressure. We should have been two or three up at half-time and we weren’t.

“We’re definitely not getting a break and it’s obviously tough for all of us at the moment but you earn your breaks.

“Burnley got a break and they’ve earned their breaks for what they’ve done over the season.”

United, meanwhile, are set to complete the signing of teenage Glenavon striker Robbie McDaid this week.

McDaid – a Republic of Ireland Under-19 international – secured a two-year contract after a recent trial with United and has been waiting to sign the deal for several weeks.

“He’s a good young player coming through so he’s one for the future, not today,” McDermott said.

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